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Posted by Stephanie on August 7, 2023

Moving pallets, items, and pieces of equipment between your loading dock and trailer can be challenging if you don’t have the right system in place. Depending on the weight of the items, your personnel might be tasked with using forklifts and other heavy machinery during transport. While there are several items that work in conjunction to improve the safety of this process, among the most effective solutions involves the use of dockboards.

Whether you manage a small warehouse or large distribution center, you can either choose dockboards or dock plates to install between the trailer and surface of your loading dock. Plates work just like dockboards but should only be used when transporting lighter items and pieces of equipment. Dockboards, on the other hand, are capable of holding up under a forklift. Below is a comprehensive guide on dockboards and how they can enhance your facility’s safety.

Dock Board

Introduction to Dockboards

Dockboards are designed to transition carts, forklifts, pallet jacks, and people between the staging floor or dock and the trailer. During warehouse loading and unloading operations, having the right equipment in place is essential to ensure the safety of your employees as well as the quality of the items that are being moved on and off the truck. There are several different types of boards and similar items that can be used for this purpose, which include:

  • Dock plates – These plates are usually constructed from lightweight aluminum that makes them easier to manually move to a different position. They often come with hand grips and handles for safer maneuverability. Since they don’t weigh as much as dockboards, they shouldn’t be used with forklifts and other powered equipment.
  • Dock levelers – A dock leveler is a type of equipment that can be recessed into a pit or placed on the dock face to make a bridge between the dock and transport vehicle. These items can be permanent fixtures.
  • Bridge plates – A bridge plate can also be used to cross the gap between the loading dock and truck. They are portable and can be smaller than standard dock plates. However, their durable construction allows them to hold a maximum static load of 10,400 pounds.
  • Dockboards – The majority of dockboards consist of heavy structural components as well as a reinforced bottom. They can be made from either steel or aluminum.

OSHA Standard 1910.26 – New Dockboard Requirements

In recent years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated their standards for dockboards in a manner that impacts material handling companies. The standard that OSHA currently maintains is 1910.26. OSHA defines dockboards as devices that are meant to span short distances between two objects. The space can’t be higher than four feet above the lowest level. This standard applies to everything from dock levelers and bridge plates to dock plates.

According to the latest 1910.26 revisions, side walls or similar solutions must be outfitted to the boards to keep vehicles or objects from falling to the side of the dockboard edge. However, OSHA has provided an exception to this standard. If an employer shows that there isn’t a hazard associated with transfer vehicles falling off the dockboard edge, employees are allowed to use dockboards even if they don’t have run-off protection.

Dock Board for Manual Use

Choosing the Right Dockboard for Your Needs

As touched upon previously, there are some substantial differences between dock plates and dockboards. Plates are made from lighter aluminum materials that can’t withstand forklifts, pallet jacks, or other types of powered equipment. Dockboards are designed specifically to accommodate forklift loads and heavy machinery. They’re capable of bearing the weight of the load as well as the automated equipment.

Because of how durable these boards must be, you should always use forklifts to move them. Certain dockboard models are equipped with forklift pockets that make it easier to keep hold of them during transport. While it’s possible for dockboards to be built with aluminum, most are made with steel.

There are numerous factors you should consider when choosing a dockboard for your facility, which include everything from the load capacity to the material. Identify your facility’s needs before choosing a dockboard. Obtaining the right weight capacity for a dockboard isn’t as easy as doing so with a dock plate. When buying dock plates, the best weight capacity is one that accommodates the heaviest load that will end up crossing the plate during loading and unloading processes.

As for dockboards, you must identify the forklift’s load capacity as well as its weight. Use the following weight guides to determine what the board’s weight capacity should be. For a three-wheel forklift, the preferred weight capacity is:

  • Forklift capacity of 2,000-2,500 pounds – Board capacity of 10,000 pounds
  • Forklift capacity of 3,000-3,500 pounds – Board capacity of 15,000 pounds
  • Forklift capacity of 6,000 pounds – Board capacity of 25,000 pounds
  • Forklift capacity of 8,000-10,000 pounds – Board capacity of 40,000 pounds

If you have a four-wheel forklift, the board capacity will remain the same even if you have a heavier forklift.

  • Forklift capacity of 2,000-3,000 pounds – Board capacity of 10,000 pounds
  • Forklift capacity of 5,000 pounds – Board capacity of 15,000 pounds
  • Forklift capacity of 7,000-8,000 pounds – Board capacity of 25,000 pounds
  • Forklift capacity of 10,000-13,000 pounds – Board capacity of 40,000 pounds

Dockboard Safety Features and Best Practices

Before you buy dockboards for your warehouse or distribution center, there are several safety features and best practices you should consider. For instance, dockboards need to have painted edges that are highly visible to your personnel and anyone who operates a forklift. These boards should also be wide enough to accommodate a truck trailer and loading equipment. All dockboards must have curbs that keep run-offs from taking place. It’s possible that your board will require some type of anchoring technique to prevent any shifting.

Your warehouse personnel will be safer if you ensure a firm and stable fit between the dock and truck. The board you buy needs to maintain a secure fit once it’s been installed. To make sure the dockboard doesn’t move when a forklift crosses over it, you need to be certain that the board has been effectively locked into place. If the gap is relatively small, the locking leg needs to be longer than the gap. If the gap is lengthier, the locking leg should be resting against the truck’s back.

In the event that the truck moves or shifts while the dockboard is being used, anyone who’s standing on the board could be in danger. If the trailer ends up slipping, the dockboard will do so as well. If you buy dock plates, make sure they come with ergonomic handholds. Some additional accessories your board may be outfitted with include:

  • Lifting chains
  • Forklift pockets
  • Transport wheels

Never drag these boards along the floor. Doing so could worsen their structural integrity.

Stored Dock Boards

Inspection and Maintenance of Dockboards

You should regularly inspect your dockboards to identify any signs of wear or damage. Even durable dockboards are placed under a considerable amount of stress that could cause cracks and other issues to develop. Warping and bending can also occur. Keep in mind that stress fractures aren’t readily visible but can be highly dangerous. You should replace your dock board immediately after you notice any signs of stress.

If you use your boards improperly or with heavier loads than the highest weight capacity, you may need to replace the equipment sooner than intended. It’s possible to lengthen the board’s lifespan by using one that has a much higher weight capacity than you need. Some of the questions you should ask yourself when performing an inspection include:

  • Does the board have any signs of warping or cracking?
  • Is there oil or grease on the board that might lead to a slip?
  • Is the dockboard equipped with side curbs?
  • Is the weight capacity easy to read by warehouse personnel?
  • Are the dockboard sides painted?
  • Has the dockboard been anchored with pins or locking legs?

Dockboards and Employee Safety

It’s essential that you maintain employee safety at all times. For instance, train your employees on how to safely use dockboards, which means that they should understand how to safely move the boards to another location. Make sure your personnel are trained in how to ergonomically handle dockboards while avoiding injuries. Above all, strive to promote a safety culture in your workplace where each employee is focused on maintaining safety whenever they’re on the warehouse floor or loading dock.

Dockboards in Compliance with ANSI MH30.2-2015

Along with the OSHA standard, dockboards must also comply with ANSI MH30.2-2015, which is the primary standard that applies to all portable dock leveling devices. Dockboard manufacturers are tasked with adhering to these guidelines while designing and constructing dockboards. The standard states that dock leveling devices can be either portable or built-in. Portable devices aren’t permanently affixed to a transport vehicle or dock structure. According to this standard, the primary components of dock levels include the leveler lip, dock plate, bumpers, push bar, and deck.

Dock Board for Forklift Use

Improving Efficiency with Dockboards

Obtaining dockboards for your warehouse allows you to enhance loading and unloading processes by making them safer and allowing personnel to get in and out of transport vehicles with ease. You can customize dockboards to your specific warehouse requirements, which ensures that they are the right size and can be fitted securely between your transport vehicle and loading dock. Optimize your material handling operations by selecting the right dockboard solutions.

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